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Lesson 8 Evaluating signs and metaphors
Objective Explain the Methods for Evaluating Effectiveness of Signs and Metaphors.

Methods for Evaluating Effectiveness of Signs and Metaphors

You will remember the statement that no matter how good your technology, your site will not succeed without finely-tuned signs and metaphors. If you work carefully through the first two stages of determining needs and creating signs and metaphors, there's a greater chance that your signs and metaphors will function effectively from the start. However, there is no substitute for real-world experience, and you will not truly know the effectiveness of your signs and metaphors until they are put to use.
The stage of evaluating signs and metaphors for effectiveness corresponds with the final portion of the six phases of the Web development process model, Post-Delivery. In this phase, there are four tools you should use to assess the effectiveness of your signs and metaphors:
  1. Site metrics
  2. Client feedback
  3. Audience analysis
  4. Design and Architecture Specification

Site metrics

There are several sophisticated applications and non-sophisticated techniques for tracking user activity on a Web site. In order to track usage of signs and metaphors, your Technical role team members can use these applications and techniques to rationally assess their effectiveness. You can customize these reports to show a wide variety of site statistics:
  1. How often users clicked on specific icons to navigate from one page to another
  2. Time spent on each page
  3. Total time spent at site
  4. Most frequently visited pages
  5. Least frequently visited pages
  6. Pages that were the most frequent exit pages
  7. Where your users went when they left your site
  8. Common pathways through the site

Information Architecture

Search Engine

Your search engine software should allow you to look at the most common search engine queries. You can use creative combinations of tracking reports to determine if users are interpreting signs and metaphors as intended.
For example, imagine that your main page has a smiley face icon to represent your Help section, but reports show that very few users take a direct path from the main page to the help page. Analyzing search queries, you observe a high number of queries for "help" or "site support." This is a strong indicator that your Help icon should be re-conceptualized so that users will consistently interpret it to be a direct link to Help.

What does the client think?

In one sense, the only customer is your client. You want to maintain excellent relationships with clients so they will continue to send work your way, both revisions to their sites, and referrals of new business from their networks of contacts. Team members in the Business role will meet with client representatives continually, and in the Post-Delivery phase, they should discuss what the client is happy with, and in what areas the client sees room for improvement.
The client invariably will have received some feedback (both internal and external) on the look and feel of the site, much of which can be useful in assessing whether changes to signs and metaphors are needed. The client will also be concerned with the number of sales or leads generated by the Web site. They will request revisions or collection of specific site metrics that address their concerns.

Audience analysis

Audience analysis should be carried out during three of the earlier phases of the Web design process: in Discovery, Definition, and Design Phases. The results are incorporated into several documents along the way so that you may reference the data throughout the design process.
You learned in a previous lesson about four types of audience analysis:
  1. Surveys
  2. Interviews
  3. Focus groups
  4. Market research

Now that the Web site is live, you can use these same techniques to put real users through interviews or focus groups, or ask users to fill out online surveys or questionnaires. There are also third-party user questionnaires that address issues of customer satisfaction. Since results are published on the Web, you are able to leverage this data to assess needed modifications.

Design and architecture specification

After the Creative, Editorial and Navigational Briefs are created and accepted, your team creates the Design and Architecture Specification. This document will indicate how you expect users to interact with the site. This document is also shaped by your client's business objectives. Since your client signs off on this document, you should continue to use it as a benchmark for performance.
Once you have collected metrics about user navigation patterns, revisit the Design and Architecture Specification to assess whether or not your expectations are being met. If you find variances between expectations and reality, you will need to discuss with your client if those variances are acceptable, desirable, or valuable in any way.
Remember that it is a standard assumption that the Web design process is iterative. No site is ever final. Revisions are necessary to adapt the site to observed user patterns and to update company information such as new products or partnerships. And if you continually present fresh information, you will be encouraging return visits by interested users.
Question: What are the four tools described here to assess the success of signs and metaphors?
Answer: Site metrics, client feedback, audience analysis, Design and Architecture Specification.

In the next lesson, you will review what you have learned in this module.

Managing Risks Signs Metaphors - Quiz

Click the Quiz link below to test your knowledge of the strategies for managing risks as you design signs and metaphors.
Managing Risks Signs Metaphors - Quiz